Marine Conservation, MSc

Marine Conservation, MSc


Giving you the knowledge and skills to make a difference in marine conservation.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
Location of Study

With the increasing variety and scale of human activities that affect marine environments it is vital that we have scientists who are able to take a multidisciplinary approach to understanding, monitoring and regulating impacts on marine biodiversity.

Run in collaboration with key conservation and management bodies, this MSc programme will provide you with an understanding of the issues that are central to marine conservation, and will develop practical skills and analytical ability that you can apply to real-world situations. You will learn from renowned researchers and leading practitioners, and will gain deep insight into a wide range of marine ecosystems in Scotland and internationally.

The programme will suit individuals looking to work in conservation bodies, environmental consultancies, government agencies, or progress to PhD research, as well as professionals who are keen to refocus their knowledge and skills on conservation of marine biodiversity.

What You'll Study

The taught part of our programme requires students to take eight compulsory courses over two semesters to develop a sound understanding of key issues and acquire essential skills. A special feature of the programme is a course in marine conservation management, which runs through both semesters, and aims to build confidence, skills and experience to engage effectively with stakeholders in a professional role.

Stage 1

Compulsory Courses

Ecological Data Analysis Using R (BI5012)

15 Credit Points

This course is uniquely tailored for ecologists and will provide students with the required background theory and practical skills relevant to modern ecology. Our example-led lectures and real-world based practical sessions will provide you with a foundation to become confident and proficient in analysing real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce you to using the programming language R to implement modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and generalised linear modelling frameworks to analyse ecological data with an emphasis on robust and reproducible statistical methods.

Population Ecology (ZO5304)

15 Credit Points

The course is structured as a series of weekly themes, which reflect areas of current research in animal ecology and serve to develop your understanding of key principles in population ecology.

Themes cover a range of ecological and spatial scales: from single species’ population dynamics to community dynamics, and from local to macro-scale processes, with a focus on the application of current ecological knowledge and theory.

Computer-based workshops complement lectures to provide opportunities to apply your learning and strengthen your quantitative skills.

By orally presenting a published paper on a topic in population ecology to your peers, you will strengthen your communication skills and develop a more critical understanding of population ecology research.

Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD5006)

This course, which is prescribed for all taught postgraduate students, is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Marine Ecosystem Management: Setting the Scene (ZO5019)

15 Credit Points

This course introduces the characteristics of the marine environment that are relevant to managing human activities in relation to conservation of marine biodiversity and sustainable exploitation of marine resources. The course considers the ecosystem roles of different biological groups, with a particular focus on the key role of fishes. There is an introduction to the policies, management approaches and organisations involved in the development of marine ecosystem-based management, with a focus on the north-east Atlantic Ocean and particularly the North Sea. Guest speakers from key organisations provide up-to-date perspectives on topical issues. Being placed at the start of PGT marine programmes, this course provides a foundation of knowledge for concepts and issues that are explored in more depth in subsequent courses.

Marine Conservation Management (ZO5309)

15 Credit Points

Effective engagement with conservation of marine biodiversity requires an open mind, creativity, patience and an appreciation of shared learning. This course is structured to help you develop those essential skills while building your understanding of current marine conservation issues and how conservation professionals across different sectors engage with them.

Optional Courses

Stage 2

Compulsory Courses

Applications of GIS (EV5517)

15 Credit Points

Lectures and structured workshops develop your knowledge of the principles and practice of geographic information systems, and familiarise you with ArcGIS software, enhancing your employability.

An individual investigation allows you to explore a specific application that you are interested in and demonstrate your proficiency with the software and your command of the conceptual underpinnings.

A flexible teaching and learning environment allows for individualised learning and enrichment for students with existing skills in GIS.

Optional Courses

Plus one from the following list of elective courses:

EK5510 Ecology, Conservation and Society (15 credit points) ZO5518 Marine Spatial Management (15 credit points)

Plus one from the following list of elective courses:

ZO5806 Fisheries Science (15 credit points) EK5807 Catchment Management (15 credit points) EV5800 Environmental Analysis (15 credit points)

Plus one from the following list of elective courses:

ZO5807 Sustainable Aquaculture (15 credit points)
EK5804 Environmental Impact Assessment (15 credit points)

Marine Spatial Management (ZO5518)

15 Credit Points

You develop an appreciation of the level of understanding of the physical and biological oceanography, biodiversity, trophic interactions, species survival and reproduction issues required to implement spatially explicit, sustainable ecosystem-base management, conservation and effective marine spatial planning. There will be an emphasis on Offshore Marine Renewables, Marine Protected Areas and Climate Change aspects.

Lectures from marine ecologists, industry consultants and government scientists working in applied marine management will provide insights into current issues.

Practical work provides training in use of R, Excel, data analysis and strengthens your written communication skills.

Group and individual working strengthen your critical thinking and problem-solving skills and support the development of strong oral communication.

Ecology, Conservation and Society (EK5510)

15 Credit Points

This course looks at current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society. We will explore diverse topics, including how ecology is changing, impacts through climate change, ecosystem services, evidence-based conservation, interdisciplinary approaches, citizen science, policy workshop, communicating science, decolonising ecology and conservation, stakeholder conflicts and data visualisation.Sessions are composed of lectures and workshops from staff and guest speakers, and structured in-class activities, which will challenge you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives. These will increase your capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.

Fisheries Science (ZO5806)

15 Credit Points

The course introduces students to the essential elements of fisheries science. It consists of three main sections: fishing technology and behaviour, fishery independent methods, and stock assessment techniques. Ultimately it will equip students with the basic knowledge and skills required to assess the abundance and distribution of fish and to understand key elements of the provision of advice for fisheries management.

Catchment Management (EK5807)

15 Credit Points

Field visits to examine river systems and forested catchments provide context and opportunities to discuss a diverse set of environmental management problems with professionals working in the field.Practical sessions provide structured activities focused on the identification of freshwater invertebrates and applications of GIS approaches for analysing data to support catchment management planning.You apply theoretical and practical knowledge to a case study, demonstrating your capacity to evaluate site specific data and to interpret relevant legislation and regulation.Working individually and with a group you will write and present a management plan for a location of your choosing.

Environmental Analysis (EV5800)

15 Credit Points

The mixture of applied science and theoretical work on this course places you in a valuable position for understanding the procedures and applications in modern environmental science.A number of laboratory classes allows you to familiarise yourself with the current analytical instrumentation in environmental science.The course uses examples of environmental issues allowing you to understand the problem, how the analysis was conducted and the implications of the results. The main assessment in this course is a practical write up that is written in the style of a scientific report giving you an opportunity to perfect this style of writing.

Sustainable Aquaculture (ZO5807)

15 Credit Points

Lectures by research staff working in aquaculture provide you with specialised knowledge in a range of current issues, including growth, nutrition, health and disease resistance, genetics and environmental interactions.

Preparation for seminars and the essay allow you to direct your own learning and explore methods and current advances in your chosen topic.

Participation in the seminars helps you to develop your communication skills and provides you with feedback on your understanding of the issues.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EK5804)

15 Credit Points

The course provides background information about the origins and development of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process, and its implementation in the UK and elsewhere. It also highlights the significance of impacts associated with selected developments addressed in detail in seminars. The lectures and seminars are supported by workshop sessions focusing on case studies and providing insights into the issues that arise during the EIA. The course also provides an opportunity to develop transferrable skills valued by employers, such as team-working, time-management, communication of science, and critical appraisal. Throughout the course you will work with genuine EIA materials utilised during different stages of the EIA process, to identify likely environmental effects, judge their significance, and propose how they should be assessed and mitigated.

Stage 3

The final phase of the course involves carrying out a research project on a choice of marine conservation issues in the UK or overseas. Projects are often carried out in association with an external partner organisation.

Compulsory Courses

Research Project in Marine Conservation (ZO5905)

60 Credit Points

The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of marine conservation and is undertaken under the supervision of a member of staff who is an expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the style of a scientific paper manuscript or of a consultancy report.

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £27,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
Home / RUK £11,900
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Funding Opportunities

The following options are available to support your studies.

  • Industrial sponsorship: Each year the Scottish Fishermen’s Trust provide up to three bursaries worth £1000 for students undertaking either the MSc AMFE programme or the MSc Marine Conservation programme.
  • The James Henry Scott Scholarship – Funded by The Swire Charitable Trust, the scholarship covers full international postgraduate tuition fees of £27k plus a maintenance award of £5k. Candidates must be from Mainland China or Hong Kong commencing one of the MSc postgraduate degrees offered by the School of Biological Sciences in September 2023. The application deadline is 1st June 2023.


Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.

How You'll Study

Our programme incorporates a wide range of learning formats, including talks from invited experts; individual and group research; and field, laboratory and computer exercises, as well as traditional lectures and seminars. Many of the activities are designed to enhance communication and teamwork skills in a variety of settings.

The programme provides opportunities to engage with staff from Marine Scotland, SNH and JNCC, as well as professionals from NGOs and the private sector, representing environmental consulting firms, for example. The programme also incorporates non-curricular workshops on improving employability, such as CV writing.

Aberdeen is well situated for providing students with learning opportunities* outside the classroom, including:

  • Outdoor field work at the University’s field station and research sites
  • Tours of marine industry facilities, including Aberdeen Harbour, aquaculture sites and fish markets
  • Access to laboratories that monitor water quality, fish health and fisheries
  • Tours of Marine Scotland’s fleet of research vessels
  • Safety at sea certification

*please note that some of these opportunities may incur an additional cost and are subject to availability.

The research project is one of the main highlights of the programme, drawing together the knowledge and skills you have acquired to address a specific research question under the supervision of one or more experts in the field.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Group Projects
  • Individual Projects
  • Lab Work
  • Lectures
  • Research
  • Seminars
  • Tutorials
  • Workshops

Assessment Methods

The programme is assessed entirely by continuous assessment: there are no exams. The degree programme is assessed using a range of formats, including written reports, oral presentations, posters, online tests, open book assessments, literature reviews, blogs, marine conservation consultation response, participation in stakeholder workshop, project plan, and the research project report.

Why Study Marine Conservation?

There has been a rapid expansion of marine conservation initiatives in recent years, as governments have responded to public pressure and international drivers for better management of marine environments, yet there remain significant challenges to conserving marine biodiversity.

It is vital that there are highly trained marine conservation professionals to ensure that issues are properly understood and management proposals are well conceived. By studying Marine Conservation at the University of Aberdeen, you will gain a deep understanding of marine ecosystems and biodiversity, the effects of human activities on them, and how management measures can be developed, as well as a suite of cutting-edge skills to put theory into practice.

The University of Aberdeen is particularly well placed to deliver this programme because:

  • Courses are delivered by internationally renowned academics, government scientists, teaching fellows and marine resource managers;
  • Aberdeen is the centre of a variety of marine activities and the programme offers interaction with a range of industries, including aquaculture, offshore oil and gas, and renewable energy;
  • You will develop skills such as statistical analysis, mathematical modelling and geographical information systems, making you more attractive to prospective employers;
  • You will gain essential research skills, including project planning, literature reviewing, data collection, analysis and interpretation, which will be beneficial to your future career;
  • You will have guest lectures from statutory nature conservation bodies, environmental NGOs, industry, and government;
  • You will have the opportunity to engage with staff from the Scottish Government’s marine department: Marine Scotland, go on tours of their fleet of research vessels, and collaborate with them for research projects;
  • Aberdeen is within easy reach of a range of marine environments, habitats and species – bottlenose dolphins are one of the more spectacular species regularly seen from the Aberdeen shoreline.

What Our Students Say

Jack Mills

Jack Mills

Jack Mills

Lecturers and guest speakers are always helpful and ready to answer questions about coursework and materials covered in lectures and our research. Each unit offers something new, and helped to develop appropriate skills for our future career.

Entry Requirements


The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

Minimum entry requirement for this programme is a degree in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant discipline at 2:1 (upper second class) UK Honours level, or an Honours degree from a non-UK institution which is judged by the University to be of equivalent worth. Candidates with at least a 2:1 or equivalent in other disciplines may be considered if they can demonstrate relevant experience and motivation.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0


OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme


The programme will prepare you for employment with the range of organisations involved in marine conservation, such as statutory conservation bodies, other government departments, environmental consultancies, and non-governmental organisations, by aligning training in skills and expertise with employer’s needs, and helping you to establish a network of professional contacts.

The research skills you will acquire will provide a foundation for further training in academic research. The knowledge and skills developed in the programme will also be applicable in fields of environmental assessment or resource management beyond marine conservation.

The UK’s Natural Environment Research Council has published an analysis of the “most wanted” postgraduate and professional skills in the ecological and environmental sector. Our MSc programme has been specifically designed to provide you with many of these sought after skills so that you are highly competitive in whatever career you choose to follow.

In addition to acquiring discipline-specific skills, the activities within our programme are designed to provide you with ample opportunity to develop generic skills required by employers, including communication in a variety of modes, critical thinking, problem-solving, team work, numeracy, data management, modelling, time management, and interdisciplinarity.

Career Opportunities

  • Environmental Consultant
  • Marine Conservation Adviser
  • Marine Policy Officer
  • Postgraduate Researcher

Industry Links

Our marine scientists collaborate with colleagues in research institutions all over the world. Research projects are often hosted by partner organisations and therefore focus on issues of real-world relevance. Partners include:

  • International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
  • Marine Alliance for Science and Technology Scotland
  • Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization
  • Scottish Fishermen’s Trust
  • South Atlantic Research Institute
  • US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Research Impact

Professor Paul Thompson and his team have been instrumental in mitigating the impacts of offshore installations on marine mammals in EU protected areas.

Watch video

Image for useful fact about this Subject

REF 2021

We are ranked in the top quartile for Research Power in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences in the latest Research Excellence Framework

Nature on our Doorstep

Current and former students tell us why they choose to study biological and environmental sciences at Aberdeen

What our Alumni Say

Hannah Webster

Hannah Webster

Hannah Webster

Graduated 2018

One of the most interesting aspects of the marine conservation course to me was the opportunity to talk to and learn from the variety of guest speakers who came to lecture us. This alongside the practicals at the Marine Scotland Science lab allowed us to gain insight into the numerous fields within marine conservation. I also enjoyed the time I got to spend at the lighthouse field station in Cromarty.

Samantha Finnegan

Samantha Finnegan

Samantha Finnegan

Graduated 2019

My most memorable memories are with my course mates who became fast friends I still keep in contact with. I enjoyed meeting people from different parts of the world and the opportunities the courses gave to apply what we learned in the classroom in a real world situation.

Our Experts

This programme will be delivered by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of internationally renowned experts in marine ecology and conservation of marine biodiversity.

Other Experts
Professor Paul Thompson
Professor Beth Scott
Dr Kara Layton
Programme Coordinator
Dr Philip Smith

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.


The University of Aberdeen has the range of facilities to support academic study and scientific research that you would expect in a large modern university, and in addition has particular facilities and features that are especially well suited to a programme in marine conservation. Three examples are listed below.

Image for Lighthouse Field Station
Lighthouse Field Station

Lighthouse Field Station

The Lighthouse Field Station is located in Cromarty, at the tip of the Black Isle. It has the dual aim of undertaking and supporting research and integrating this work into teaching and outreach activities.

Find out more
Image for Zoology Museum
Zoology Museum

Zoology Museum

The museum’s displays are worldwide in scope, from protozoa to the great whales, including taxidermy, skeletal material, study skins, fluid-preserved specimens and models.

Image for Sir Duncan Rice Library
Sir Duncan Rice Library

Sir Duncan Rice Library

The University’s award winning Sir Duncan Rice Library is listed in the “Top 20 spellbinding University libraries in the World”. It contains over a million volumes, more than 300,000 e-books and 21,000 journals.

Find out more

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
AB24 3FX